Monday, August 19, 2013
Sunday, November 18, 2012
I have been meaning to write about Hillsborough - the disaster, many years ago, when 96 football fans died and the police tried to lie and blame the catastrophe on the victims.
Unfortunately, it makes me so sad, so angry that I have been unable to do so.
This account, from a survivor of that day, says everything I could possibly say - and then some:
(from the Guardian, September 14th., 2012)
"First of all, apologies are due to Our Lady, for the language. When the Hillsborough Independent Panel filed in to the press conference in the chapel of Our Lady in Liverpool's majestic Anglican cathedral, just before midday on Wednesday, the mood was sombre. Within half an hour, the air was a shade of blue; 100 journalists gathered in the chapel swearing in disbelief at the revelations contained in this landmark report.
As a survivor of the disaster, I had a rare perspective among the media. I survived the crush in pen 3; many of the 96 died in front of me. Unable to move for over half an hour, I was condemned to watch them cry for help, throw up, plead for their lives and die. When the police finally opened the gate in the fence and the crush abated, around a dozen of them simply keeled over and hit the concrete. A heap of corpses piled up in front of me. One police officer said the scene "was like Belsen".
The noise will never leave me. Yesterday, there were periods of profound silence between the many questions directed first towards the panel and then the family groups. I almost broke that with my own tears when it was revealed that 41 of the dead might have been saved.
A shocking number – so large that, had those 41 been saved, Hillsborough would not stand today as the biggest disaster in British sport. That claim to notoriety would belong to the Ibrox disaster of 1971, which claimed 66 lives.
The fact that the outrageous lies of the South Yorkshire police, accepted by Kelvin MacKenzie, were chiselled away, slowly, carefully and forensically over 23 years, lent this process a weight in the public mind that a judicial review, convened perhaps over a few short months, could not have achieved.
This, however, should not be time for a celebration of the peculiarly evolutionary nature of British justice: this was driven by grief left to fester for 23 years. People can accept that terrible things happen if accountability and truth follow. "We will always be the losers in this," Margaret Aspinall said. But as one reporter replied: "Yes, but Margaret, this is the first time I think I've ever seen you smile."
Survivors and families have lived with very different nightmares since 1989: the bereaved suffered intense grief; survivors bore the trauma.
They are different conditions, and require different treatments. Justice and truth are perhaps the only remedy that can heal us both.
What did I realistically hope for this week? I hoped that the lies peddled by the police and the Sun would be exposed. They were detonated. I hoped that people would recognise the families as we know them, ordinary people who retained their dignity amid extraordinary grief. They were magnificent. I could not possibly have hoped that the panel would do such a fine job, and it must take enormous credit, propelled by the remarkable Phil Scraton. And while I expected some form of vindication, I did not expect to find myself at the heart of a historic event. When the Daily Mirror's Brian Reade asked if we had seen the biggest cover-up in British history, Michael Mansfield QC simply answered: "Yes."
I felt a sense for the first time that this tragedy was no longer mine, or other survivors', or the families' – it belongs now to the nation, both as a wake-up call, a warning of how systemically justice can be corrupted, and as a reminder that right can still triumph over might. Liverpool and Liverpool fans have done the nation a great service here. We never gave up: we had to take on not one police force but two (one curious omission for me was the role of the West Midlands police), the rightwing media, the legal system and successive governments. And we won.
There is no bitterness on my part that the public took 23 years to wake up to our nightmare. Their ignorance was their faith in the media and in the police. This has suffered a huge blow and the fact surely cannot go unnoticed by Lord Justice Leveson. I also hope, as a southerner, that the people of Liverpool will no longer be subjected to the lazy, callous stereotypes peddled off the back of the Sun's lies.
As the rain fell outside the chapel, the panel began proceedings with its distinctly 21st-century language (it would offer no "value judgments"). But last night, in the Ship and Mitre pub in Liverpool city centre, an 80s revival was in full swing. Fleet Street's finest sunk beers and sang songs with Labour MPs Steve Rotheram and Andy Burnham, with the families, survivors and other campaigners. And through a night when the streets of Liverpool appeared to be paved with springs, there was still magnanimity: I heard not one note of scepticism about David Cameron's speech. He was universally applauded for setting the tone of a historic day with a compassionate and unequivocal response in the Commons. Credit where it's due. Now let's have justice where it's due."
Saturday, July 21, 2012
Guy Taylor, now 45, enquired what data the police held on him, as he is entitled to under the data protection act.
He was (and is) a political activist and he discovered, probably to his delight, that the police had been seriously interested in the stall he helped to set up at the Glastonbury Festival in 2009 and that a police spy reported that this stall "was selling political publications and merchandise of an XLW (extremely left wing) anti-capitalist nature."
Good on them, say I. Anyone who hadn't turned anti-capitalist by 2009 can't have been reading the newspapers.
Mr. Taylor deserves the last word:
"I can't understand what use information about what I did at Glastonbury has for the Metropolitan police. If they need to know the plans and schemes of anti-capitalists, the worst place to look is Glastonbury as we were rarely in a fit state to plan the downfall of a parish council, let alone the world financial system as we know it."
Mr. Taylor has one conviction, for spray painting in 1991, when he must have been about 15 years old.
His attendance at political demonstrations and at Glastonbury has been monitored ever since.
(Guardian, 16 July 2012)
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
The most obstreperous, bad-tempered and argumentative Prime Minister of recent times (Gordon Brown) did not believe he could get away with telling the Murdoch Press to fuck right off even when the suggestion was that they should publish intimate and confidential information about the illness of his child. Which they did.
Murdoch and his operations have disgusted and repulsed me ever since he first graced these shores. But this is the ultimate measure of his corrupting influence on British life and British politics.
Do everything you can to take Murdoch down. Don't buy his newspapers and books, don't go to his movies, vote and agitate against him and his cohorts whenever you can.
(Oh, and do anything you can to get rid of Jeremy Hunt, the 'Minister for Murdoch' as well. It is time he went too.)
Friday, April 27, 2012
"... here's a reminder of what Hunt was about to unleash on the country, with Cameron and George Osborne's approval. If Murdoch were allowed to own all BSkyB, within a year or two he would package all his newspapers on subscription or online together with his movie and sports channels in offers consumers could hardly refuse, at loss-leading prices. Other news providers, including this one, would be driven out, or reduced to a husk. His would be the commanding news voice. Except for the BBC – which his media have attacked relentlessly for years.
This man, let us remember, is not even a British citizen.
(I wonder if he pays any British taxes?)
I wrote immediately to the Guardian.
A private dinner with Mrs. Thatcher just before she allowed him to
acquire the Times and Sunday Times? A whole afternoon telling Tony Blair what to think about the EU? A quiet breakfast with David Cameron a few days before the Sun switched sides to support the Tories?
Could someone let us know how many similarly convivial and mutually convenient sessions the Editor of the Guardian and the BBC's Director General have enjoyed with the last four or five Prime Ministers?
My letter was not published. I got no answer ....
Saturday, April 21, 2012
A British citizen with a black skin, aged 28, stops to give information to the police in London.
He is driving a smart car, dressed in a pin-stripe suit. Admittedly it is 3.30 in the morning and the police have been under attack from people with the same skin colour.
But that is what he wants to tell them, that he has seen, that he can identify, one of the black boys throwing things at them.
His name is Edric Kennedy-Macfoy.
About a year and a half later, the matter has finally been resolved and has been referred to the IPCC at last.
"Kennedy-Macfoy's solicitor, Shamik Dutta, of Bhatt Murphy solicitors, voiced concerns at his client's allegations, saying: "The question many people are bound to ask is why an off-duty firefighter, wearing a pinstriped suit and offering assistance to the police, should have been dragged from his car, shot with a Taser, locked up for many hours and then prosecuted for an offence he did not commit by the very officers he was trying to help."
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Saturday, October 29, 2011
Friday, October 28, 2011
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
The legislature and the judiciary are (supposedly) separate bodies in the U.K. It is not, as one columnist put it, for politicians to cheer or boo the decisions of the supposedly independent judges and magistrates. This did not seem to constrain anyone. Indeed, Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service went out of its way to clarify the position:
"Sentencing is a matter for the independent judiciary," it said. (But) "... justices' clerks and legal advisers in magistrates courts have a responsibility to give advice to magistrates on sentencing guidelines .... Accordingly magistrates in London are being advised by their legal advisers to consider whether their powers of punishment are sufficient in dealing with some cases arising from the recent disorder."
So that is clear then. The judiciary and magistrates are independent. On the other hand all their professional advisers are telling them to ratchet up the sentences they give and send offenders to the Crown Courts if magistrates' powers seem insufficient. This advice reflects the vengeful ambitions of the politicians (led by the Prime Minister).
From the Guardian, 16th. August: "The Chair of Camberwell Green magistrates' court, Novello Noades, went so far as to claim that the court had been given a government "directive" that anyone involved in the rioting be given a custodial sentence. She later retracted her statement and said that she was mortified to have used the term 'directive'."
Whatever you call it, the 'directive' has had its effect and the results of this advice from the politicians have been ludicrous. It would be a laughable situation were the sentences imposed not so extreme that they will wreck the lives of some young people and incite rather than deter active expressions of protest and dissent.
A youth was sent to prison for six months for stealing bottled water valued at £3.50. Two others were sent to prison for four years each (FOUR YEARS) for posting riotous suggestions on Facebook (though absolutely no one responded and one of them took the suggestions down as soon as he sobered up.)
The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, was - for once - completely right when he stated (before he came into office) that austerity policies and excessive deflationary pressures would lead to riots. These were his words before the last election, which Gary Younge recalled in an excellent article in the Guardian on Monday 15th. August:
"Imagine the Conservatives ... get an absolute majority, on 25% of the eligible votes .... They then turn around in the next week or two and say we're going to chuck up VAT to 20%, we're going to start cutting teachers, cutting the police, and the wage bill in the public sector. I think if you're not careful in that situation ... you'd get Greek-style unrest."
The Tories got 23% of the eligible vote.
Nick Clegg and his party have actively supported cutting teachers' pay, cutting the numbers of the police and axing the wage bill in the public sector.
".... Greek-style unrest."
Given how much politicians pocketed before the expenses scandal and the autocratic disdain with which they paid back the money (without remorse) when forced to do so, it does not behove them to call for poor people to be sent to prison for ludicrously long periods.
Most of the politicians stole much more than £3.50.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
The riots started in Tottenham in London where a young black man was killed by the police in circumstances which the police and the Independent Police Complaints Commission have successfully made suspicious. The first accounts of the incident were (probably deliberately) intended to mislead. This was the Guardian internet headline, over an article by Paul Lewis and Sandra Laville dated 13 August:
Mark Duggan death: IPCC says it inadvertently misled media
Police watchdog says it led media to believe shots were exchanged but Duggan was carrying gun that was never used
The text of the internet version of this article is at:
It is very convenient, if the police shoot a man hastily, mistakenly or by accident, to discover a gun in his pocket or near his cold dead fingers. American cops used to carry unidentifiable 'throwdown' weapons for just this purpose.
The weapon that Mark Duggan is said to have been carrying has variously been described as a converted starting pistol or a replica gun converted to fire real bullets. There was, it has been said, just one bullet in it.
If Duggan was, as the police allege, a major drug dealer and pusher, could he not have got himself a more impressive weapon? And should he not have been in a luxurious Range Rover rather than a mini-cab when he was shot?
The whole thing stinks. And it was to find out what the police would say about it that a protest march led by Duggan's family members went to the police station on Friday 6th. August.
They were kept waiting for, it seems, five hours. No one would come out and tell them what was going on, what the IPCC were doing or why the police had shot Duggan. Instead, the trail was muddied into obscurity by the misleading statements about Duggan opening fire on the police which are reported above.
That was when a peaceful demonstration turned into a riot; when supporters of the family of a man murdered or at least killed by the police sought a peaceful explanation for his death and, failing to find it, tore bits of their own community apart in protest. And a ready well of frustration in other areas, in other cities, flooded the streets with copycat violence as a result.
As I texted to a friend later, when a Cabinet full of millionaire old Etonians informs a whole nation that it is to be impoverished, that the young now have no hope and the old have no security, it is hardly surprising when mindless mob violence born of anger and frustration erupts onto our streets.
P.S. To my surprise, I find the Daily Telegraph's Chief Political Correspondent, Peter Oborne, expressing views very similar to those in my last paragraph in an excellent recent 'think piece'. You can read his views at this addresss:
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Monday, July 11, 2011
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Until 11 September last year, the police were rather admired in the Meyers household. Tony Meyers is a firefighter, a profession in which you work closely with the police and tend to get on with them, and his younger son, then 17, had done work experience with the police and was considering it as a career.